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Benjamin, Walter - Illuminations - A language of Truth



Type of Spiritual Experience


This is about, but not an example of, inner speech and symbolism

A description of the experience

Walter Benjamin – Illuminations – The Task of the Translator

The task of the translator consists in finding that intended effect upon the language into which he is translating which produces in it the echo of the original…

If there is such a thing as a language of truth, the tensionless and even silent depositary of the ultimate truth which all thought strives for, then the language of truth is the true language….

In translation the original rises into a higher and purer linguistic air, as it were.  It cannot lie there permanently, to be sure, and it certainly does not reach it in its entirety.  Yet, in a singularly impressive manner, at least it points the way to this region; the predestined hitherto inaccessible realm of reconciliation and fulfilment of languages….

In all languages and all linguistic creations there remains in addition to what can be conveyed something that cannot be communicated; depending on the context in which it appears, it is something that symbolises or something symbolised.  It is the former only in the finite products of language, the latter in the evolving of the languages themselves.  And that which seeks to represent, to produce itself in the evolving of languages is that very nucleus of pure language…..

In this pure language – which no longer means or expresses anything, but is, as expressionless and creative Word, that which is meant in all languages – all information, all sense, and all intention finally encounter a stratum in which they are destined to be extinguished……..

Where a text is identical with Truth, where it is supposed to be the ‘true language’ in all its literalness and without the mediation of meaning, this text is unconditionally translatable.  In such cases translations are called for only because of the plurality of languages.  Just as, in the original, language and revelation are one without any tension, so the translation must be one with the original in the form of the interlinear version, in which literalness and freedom are united.

For to some degree all great texts contain their potential translation between the lines; this is true to the highest degree of sacred writing.

The source of the experience

Benjamin, Walter

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Symbol system

Activities and commonsteps